I write in my second book, Five Eyes on the Fence, about the importance of protecting your social capital. My thesis is that financial capital is a byproduct of four other types of capitals. When human, social, intellectual, and structural capital are well-tended, financial capital flourishes.
Social capital can be summarized in two words: Relationships matter.
The strength of your relationship with clients, potential clients, vendors, employees, and colleagues determines the extent to which these relationships can be accessed as a resource. The stronger the social capital, the more likely your financial capital will benefit.
And the stronger your relationship with strangers, the better your social capital.
I know what you are thinking, “Wait a minute: How can a person have a relationship with a stranger? Isn’t not knowing the person the very definition of a stranger?”
And therein lies the problem. You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t know whether someone else knows something about you. You don’t know if a so-called “stranger” has an eye on you.
When you walk through life, consider that you are often being observed. If you are being ungrateful, pessimistic, or otherwise unpleasant, “strangers” are noticing. When you post hostile messages on someone’s social media site, “strangers” are reading these messages. When you are rude to the barista, “strangers” are less inclined to engage your conversations.
Those strangers might be people who would have otherwise turned into important components of your social capital network.
This February, I spoke to the students at the University of Southern California’s Leventhal School of Accounting about my book, and how they can use the four other capitals to help their clients strengthen their financial capital.
During our discussion about nurturing relationships with social capital, a student brought this to my attention: The following Friday, a prestigious speaker was visiting their school.
I gave this advice: “Dress like you are going to a job interview.”
One of the students objected: “There are going to be thousands of people at the event. Why would he notice me?”
My response was this: “There are going to be thousands of people at the event. Someone will notice you, and that person might just be your next boss.”
This holds true in life. Of the billions of people out there, you never know who is noticing you. You never know who will be your next boss, your next client, your next employee, or your next vendor. So many relationships are born out of happenstance. Why not give these relationships the best chance at blossoming by going out into the world as the best version of yourself?